SOOOO........I am sitting in my squeaky chair in the community room at West Hollywood City Hall, attending my commission meeting. Human Services dontcha' know? It was a small meeting, with several commissioners not present. We were treated to some public speakers, and presentations from some of the West Hollywood service providers. It was relatively simple, great presentations and reports.
There were a few people in the audience. One of them was current West Hollywood Mayor Jeff Prang. He left for a moment, and came back to what I believe has been my most upsetting moment while on this commission.
How this system works, is that the service providers come in to speak to the commission , telling us their goals and answering several questions that they have been sent earlier. We heard from several, and it was about legal services tonight. Everything was going fine, and I was just sitting there listening intently, trying to be a good commissioner UNTIL IT WAS THE LA GAY AND LESBIAN CENTER'S TURN.
Roger Coggan, the Director of Legal Services at the LAGLC, seems to be a very even tempered, and by all accounts, non dramatic representative from their very popular legal department. He began with the usual formalities, and thanked the city for our ongoing support of the Center's programming. He is a fair skinned gentleman, with a shaved head. As he was speaking, his neck began to turn red. It traveled up his neck to his face and cheeks, and forehead.
Now I have been around many types of people when this happens. Some are shy, some are snorting coke and some are doing poppers. THIS WAS NONE OF THAT. This gentleman was describing to the Commission the abuse that they see on non white gay clients of theirs at the hands of OUR OWN WEST HOLLYWOOD SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT. He went on to let us know, AND YES MAYOR JEFF PRANG WAS STILL IN THE ROOM, that it was non existent or rare for white gay clients, and THE WEST HOLLYWOOD SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT WAS WORSE THAN THE LAPD.
This is the same sheriffs department that we are lead to believe are so understanding and so kind with our community. This is the sheriffs department that is lauded by our Council and City Managers department. This is the sheriffs department, that is supposed to be second to none. Well tonight, 5 commissioners, a Mayor, and staff heard and recorded that this is BULLSHIT. Roger was gentleman enough to preface this with that he realizes that the city can't control all that the sheriffs department does. I, INTO MY MIC, VERY SHARPLY DISAGREED WITH HIM, almost as if to let him know it is fine that he was telling us the truth, and we wanted to hear it.
He told us that there were examples such as a young non white gay male, being handcuffed and then hit with a baton. Then clearly, one officer didn't like what one of his detainees was wearing, and kept alluding to and asking him if he was undocumented and illegal. HEY COPPER, MOVE TO ARIZONA IF THIS IS YOUR MODUS APERANDI BECAUSE WE DON'T ROLL THIS WAY IN WEHO.
He then went on to tell of his disgust and frustration, but at this point my heart was pounding so loudly I couldn't hear a lot more.
When it was my turn to speak, and after seeing the disgust on the other commissioners faces, I assured him that indeed the city could have more control over this, and THAT WE HAVE 5 VERY CAPABLE AND INTERESTED ELECTED CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS, who should be looking at this, like yesterday.
Mayor Prang could not speak on this as it wasn't agendized, but he asked Roger to contact him tomorrow. I hope he does. I hope also that my Council member John Duran does. I hope Council member Abbe Land as well as John Heilman does, and last but not least I hope Council member John D'Amico demands info and answers on this.
There has been buzz in the gay community of a sheriff being on duty that is so abusive he has to have a camera film his every action. I do not know if this is true, but if it is, this sheriff needs a long vacation, at a far away place. WAY FAR AWAY....LIKE UGANDA WHERE IT IS LEGAL TO HARM GAY FOLKS. His type of policing would fare well there.
I will be of course speaking on this at the next council meeting during my two minutes , as I suspect others will. I hope there is an investigation on this. There were several instances described not an isolated one. And quite frankly an isolated one is one too many for me to be comfortable with.
As a side note, when I was visiting the LA County jail downtown every month, in the gay and transgender dorms, there was verbal abuse being spewed at the inmates by the guards, while I was there. Words like poof. fag queer and sissy. I thought to myself, thank the stars I live in a city where this could never happen. I GUESS I WAS WRONG. WAY WRONG.